I spent last week off the grid, on a mountain, surrounded only by 34 mostly-Austrian kids, a handful of adults and fresh Alpine air. It was our biggest and – from what I’ve heard the others say – most successful Kids Camp (Kinderlager) ever.
This was my second time to go, but first without Holly, who stayed behind with Elliott this year. I missed them a lot, but still had a lot of fun and was greatly blessed by my time at Schwarzwaldeckhaus, the 50-something-year-old house owned by the Churches of Christ in Austria and used for everything from camps to retreats during its long and storied history. Anyone who has ever come up here has a story to tell about this house, and I think 34 more stories were added this year.
My specific task this year was working on the Sport/Spiel/Spaß Zeit (Sport, Games and Fun time) with Bart and Bobby. We played everything from capture the flag to water balloon volleyball, but my favorite day was when Bobby used his skills and equipment from his day job as a tree cutter for Vienna to make a ropes course complete with zip line and climbing section. I also helped out with the older kids’ Bible class, specifically interpreting Martin’s lessons into English for a few kids who attended from Slovakia and Czech Republic, so had little to no German. I think this was a first for so many non-German speakers to come, which can be scary for a kid, but they fit right in and are already excited for next year.
The rest of my time was spent leading my specific group through kitchen duties, prayer time and other service areas, doing a devotional in German and simply hanging out with, spending time with and encouraging the kids. A lot of them come from troubled backgrounds, and you could see they enjoyed a week of simple fun and peaceful interaction with other kids and adults, both.
In the US, especially in church circles, we’re used to summer camps. If you grew up going to one, you know how impactful it can be. Now imagine how this experience is for someone who doesn’t have a peaceful home, or doesn’t hear about Jesus on a daily basis, or who has simply never been to the mountains. This week was a chance for them to see God’s creation, experience God’s love and learn about his plan. It left everyone (especially the adults) exhausted, but it’s no wonder that everybody keeps coming back every year for more and that we keep adding kids by the year.
In fact, the numbers of kids in the group who are actually teenagers are large enough that we plan on providing these older kids with their own camp next year, Youth Camp (Jugendlager). The details about this extra week is all TBD, but we are already very excited for it and we already have had many teens tell us they can’t wait to come.
With the Haskews on furlough and many others in our church also traveling, it’s now pretty quiet around Vienna for the summer. Please pray for us as we hold down the fort and keep things going throughout this quiet season. Also pray that our fall plans will come to fruition with great energy and excitement.